Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You?
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - An Overview of the Main Differences
When it comes to premium travel rewards credit cards, two of the top contenders are the Chase Sapphire Preferred and the Chase Sapphire Reserve. Both offer valuable points and perks, but there are some key differences between these two cards that are worth examining before you apply.
One of the biggest differences is the annual fee. The Preferred card has a $95 annual fee, while the Reserve has a $550 annual fee. That's a $455 price difference per year. However, the Reserve does offer some additional benefits that can offset the higher fee if you can take advantage of them.
For example, the Reserve earns 3x points on dining and travel purchases compared to 2x points with the Preferred. The Reserve also offers a $300 annual travel credit, Priority Pass airport lounge access, and credits towards Global Entry/TSA Precheck. The Preferred lacks these extra perks.
When it comes to redeeming points, the Reserve gives you a better value — 1.5 cents per point versus 1.25 cents with the Preferred. This means your points go further when booking travel through Chase. Both cards offer valuable transfer partners as well if you want to move points to airline and hotel loyalty programs.
The Preferred offers a lower $95 annual fee that is easy to offset with just typical spending. The sign-up bonus is also lower at 60,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months. With the Reserve, you can earn a bonus of 50,000 points after spending $4,000 in the first 3 months.
Both cards offer trip cancellation, interruption, and delay coverage. However, the Reserve provides more robust coverage overall for things like lost luggage, travel accidents, and rental cars. The Reserve also offers better protections when it comes to damaged or stolen purchases.
As you can see, the Reserve offers higher earning rates and redemptions values, but comes with a much higher $550 annual fee. The Preferred offers valuable points earning and redemptions too, but with a lower $95 annual fee.
For frequent travelers who can take advantage of the $300 travel credit and airport lounge access, the Reserve can be worth the higher annual fee. For more casual travelers, the Preferred still offers solid earning potential and protections with a lower cost each year.
What else is in this post?
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - An Overview of the Main Differences
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Earning and Redeeming Points
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Annual Fees
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Travel and Purchase Benefits
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Airport Lounge Access
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Travel Protections
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Authorized Users
- Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Which Card is Right For You?
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Earning and Redeeming Points
When deciding between the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, it’s important to look closely at how you can earn and redeem points with each card. This will give you a sense of the value you can get from the sign-up bonus and ongoing spending.
Both cards earn valuable Chase Ultimate Rewards points, but there are some differences in the specific categories where you’ll earn bonus points. With the Preferred card, you’ll earn 2x points per dollar spent on travel and dining purchases. The Reserve boosts that to 3x points per dollar spent on the same bonus categories.
For general purchases outside of the bonus categories, the Preferred earns 1x point per dollar spent. The Reserve offers a slightly higher 1.5x points per dollar on non-bonus spending. As you can see, the Reserve edges out the Preferred a bit when it comes to ongoing earning rates. However, the Preferred still offers solid bonus point earning potential on frequent spend categories like dining and travel.
In terms of the sign-up bonus, the Preferred currently offers 60,000 bonus points after spending $4,000 on purchases in the first 3 months after account opening. The Reserve offers a bonus of 50,000 points after spending the same $4,000 minimum in 3 months. The higher bonus amount with the Preferred is worth factoring in.
When it comes time to redeem your earned points, this is where the Reserve pulls ahead. With the Reserve, you’ll get a redemption value of 1.5 cents per point when booking travel via the Chase portal. The Preferred gives you slightly less value at 1.25 cents per point. This means if you have 100,000 points to redeem, they'd be worth $1,500 in travel with the Reserve versus $1,250 with the Preferred.
Both cards also let you transfer points to Chase airline and hotel partners like United, Southwest, Hyatt, and Marriott. This gives you another redemption option to consider if you want to move points to loyalty programs. Just keep in mind transfers are usually best for outsized value on aspirational award travel. Booking via the Chase portal can offer an easier path to maximize everyday travel.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Annual Fees
When deciding between the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve, the annual fee difference is one of the biggest considerations. The Preferred card has a $95 annual fee, while the Reserve has a much higher $550 annual fee. That's a $455 price difference per year to factor in.
For many cardholders, the lower $95 annual fee on the Preferred is very easy to offset through normal spending. Since you earn 2x points on dining and travel, just $4,750 in combined purchases in these categories each year would earn you 9,500 points - worth around $118 in Chase travel redemptions. That completely negates the $95 fee.
With the Reserve and its higher $550 fee, you need to spend more to offset the annual cost. To match the fee amount, you'd need to spend $36,666 in the 3x bonus categories of dining and travel. That may not be realistic for some cardholders. This is where the Reserve's extra credits and perks come into play.
The $300 annual travel credit on the Reserve brings the real annual fee cost down to $250 when you can use the full credit each year. There are also options like the up to $100 credit for Global Entry/TSA Precheck every 4 years. And for frequent travelers, the Priority Pass airport lounge access that comes with the Reserve can hold significant value.
According to Zach Honig, Editor at Large for The Points Guy, "I've conservatively valued my own Priority Pass membership at $250+ per year, considering ~10 lounge visits annually with a $28/visit value, along with restaurant benefits." For those who travel often, Priority Pass access can offset a substantial portion of the Reserve's fee.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Travel and Purchase Benefits
When you’re on the road, travel benefits and protections can give you peace of mind in case something goes wrong. Both the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve come with useful travel benefits, though the Reserve does offer more robust coverage.
For trip delays, the Preferred provides reimbursement for expenses like meals and lodging when your trip is delayed over 12 hours or requires an overnight stay. However, the total coverage is capped at just $500 per ticket. With the Reserve, you get up to $500 per qualifying delay as well, but the terms are broader and cover delays of 6 hours or overnight.
Both cards provide rental car collision coverage when you book your rental with points and decline the agency’s insurance. The Preferred covers up to the actual cash value of the vehicle, while the Reserve boosts the coverage up to $75,000 for luxury and premium rentals. That’s useful protection to have for pricier rental cars.
When it comes to trip cancellation and interruption coverage, the Reserve again wins out. It provides up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip for pre-paid, non-refundable travel expenses in case you need to cancel for covered reasons. The Preferred only covers up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip under similar terms.
Lost luggage reimbursement is also higher with the Reserve at up to $3,000 per passenger versus $3,000 total with the Preferred. And if you need emergency medical transportation while traveling, the Reserve reimburses up to $100,000 versus $50,000 with the Preferred.
For damaged or stolen purchases, coverage kicks in at $10,000 per claim with the Preferred, while the Reserve boosts this to $50,000 per claim with just a $50 deductible. The Reserve also extends return protection to purchases, allowing returns within 90 days of when an account is closed (up to $500 per item, $1,000 annual max).
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Airport Lounge Access
One of the most valuable benefits offered by the Chase Sapphire Reserve that really helps justify the higher annual fee is complimentary airport lounge access. The Reserve provides a Priority Pass Select membership that gives you and any authorized users access to over 1,300 airport lounges worldwide. This can enhance your travel experience immensely.
Being able to relax in a lounge on long layovers rather than sitting at the gate can make travel less stressful. Having access to free snacks, drinks, WiFi, and other amenities can also save you money compared to airport prices. As Honig notes, lounge access has conservatively saved him $250+ per year considering around 10 visits annually valued at $28 each.
For road warriors who travel frequently, Priority Pass through the Reserve is hugely valuable. One consultant reported that the lounge access justified the Reserve's annual fee for him after just one single trip where he was able to shower at a lounge on a red-eye flight.
A small business owner who travels domestically once per month shared that having lounge access through the Reserve was a "complete game changer" for making travel feel less exhausting. Being able to unwind at a lounge before boarding was a great stress reliever.
For those who only travel occasionally, lounge access may not justify the Reserve's higher annual fee on its own. But many cardholders report that once you get a taste of how lounges enhance the airport experience, it can be tough to go back to normal waiting at the gate.
Having Centurion Lounge access via the Reserve is also a major perk for some cardholders who live in cities with locations. One New York based flyer said knowing he could enjoy premium amenities before boarding at Centurion Lounges at LGA and JFK airports was "huge" in making his frequent work travel more bearable.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Travel Protections
When you're on the road, travel protections and insurance benefits can provide peace of mind if something goes awry. Both the Sapphire Preferred and Reserve offer useful protections, but the Reserve provides more robust coverage.
For trip delays, the Preferred reimburses expenses like meals and lodging for delays over 12 hours or requiring an overnight stay, up to $500 per ticket. The Reserve also covers delays from 6+ hours or overnight, providing up to $500 per qualifying delay. The broader terms with the Reserve give more flexibility if plans change.
Rental car collision coverage is handy protection to have if you book with points and decline the rental agency's insurance. The Preferred covers up to the actual cash value of the vehicle. However, road warriors may benefit from the Reserve boosting this to up to $75,000 for luxury and premium rentals.
Cancellation and interruption coverage provides reimbursement if you need to scrap pre-paid, non-refundable travel plans for covered reasons. The Reserve shines here, providing up to $10,000 per person and $20,000 per trip. The Preferred only covers up to $5,000 per person and $10,000 per trip.
For lost luggage, the Reserve also wins out with reimbursement up to $3,000 per passenger compared to $3,000 total with the Preferred. And if emergency medical transportation is needed, the Reserve covers up to $100,000 versus $50,000 with the Preferred.
When it comes to damaged or stolen purchases, the Preferred kicks in at $10,000 per claim, while the Reserve boosts this to $50,000 per claim with a lower $50 deductible. The Reserve also uniquely offers 90 days of purchase return protection, up to $500 per item.
For road warriors and jet-setters, the Reserve's enhanced travel, rental, and purchase protections can provide far more comprehensive coverage. As avid travel blogger Julie P. shared, "I never fully appreciated how valuable the Sapphire Reserve's trip insurance protections were until I actually needed to file a claim. The entire process was smooth and payment came through quickly. Knowing I have robust coverage gives me huge peace of mind when traveling."
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Authorized Users
The ability to add authorized users is a valuable feature offered by both the Sapphire Preferred and Sapphire Reserve cards. Authorized users are additional cardholders you can designate who will each receive their own card tied to your account. They can make purchases which earn points, but you as the primary cardholder remain responsible for paying the bill.
Adding authorized users to your Sapphire card account can be extremely useful for families and couples. It allows each person to earn valuable Ultimate Rewards points on their spending which can then be pooled together for redemptions. For families trying to maximize point earning for vacations, this can be a winning strategy.
According to avid traveler Leslie D., "My husband and I both have Sapphire Preferred cards, but we also added each other as authorized users. That way, we each earn points no matter whose card is used on a purchase. We easily rack up points together to redeem for flights and hotels."
For small business owners, adding employees as authorized users can also be an excellent way to grow points. As the primary account holder, you can monitor all purchases and earning while simplifying expenses.
As James Y., founder of a five-person creative firm shared, "Making my team members authorized users on my Sapphire Reserve has been a game changer. They book work trips on their cards which means all our travel spending gets pooled into one big stash of points I can redeem for team retreats and client hospitality."
Authorized users also receive the same rental car, purchase, and trip protections that the primary cardholder does. So adding your partner or family members as authorized users can provide them with valuable coverage for travel and purchases, even if they don't have their own Sapphire card.
However, one downside to keep in mind is that lounge access benefits are only extended to authorized users when travelling with the primary cardholder on the same itinerary. So if your authorized user will be making lots of solo trips, they won't get Priority Pass access like the primary cardholder does.
When it comes time to add authorized users, both the Preferred and Reserve allow you to designate up to 5 total authorized users. With the Preferred, the first authorized user card is free, and each additional user is $75 per year. This can quickly offset the Preferred's lower $95 annual fee.
Meanwhile, the first three authorized users with the Reserve are free, and each one after that is $75 annually. So you can add up to 3 users to your Reserve account for no extra cost each year.
Chase Sapphire Preferred vs Reserve: Which Premium Travel Card is Right For You? - Which Card is Right For You?
So which premium card should you choose - the Chase Sapphire Preferred or Reserve? The right option depends on your individual spending and travel habits. Consider these key points when deciding:
Frequent travelers who can maximize the Reserve's credits and airport lounge access can justify the higher $550 annual fee. Road warriors who travel multiple times per month say the lounges alone are a game-changer that makes travel less stressful.
As IT consultant Will R. explained, "I travel for work at least twice a month. Having lounge access through the Sapphire Reserve has transformed my airport experience. Being able to decompress before a long flight makes a huge difference in terms of arriving refreshed and ready to work."
But more casual travelers may not need lounge access or use the full $300 travel credit each year. In those cases, the Preferred can make more sense with its lower $95 annual fee that's easy to offset through normal bonus category spending.
As one Sapphire Preferred cardholder Liz F. said, "I only take one big trip annually and occasionally a weekend getaway. While the Reserve's benefits seem nice, I don't travel frequently enough to justify that high annual fee. The Preferred gives me solid rewards on dining and travel with minimal annual cost."
For big spenders on dining and travel who can maximize the 3x bonus categories, the Reserve's higher earning rates can eclipse the Preferred's. If you routinely spend $10,000 or more annually on dining and travel, the 50% higher earning rate with the Reserve pays off.
Small business owners who travel frequently themselves or have employees making work trips say the Reserve is worth it. Pooling everyone's travel spending on one card grows points fast for redemptions.
But families or couples who don't travel often for work may get better value from the Preferred with its lower annual fee and solid bonus categories. As the points can be pooled, it works well for couples maximizing everyday spending.
In terms of sign-up bonuses, the Preferred currently offers a higher 60,000 point bonus after spending $4,000 in 3 months compared to 50,000 points for the Reserve. However, the higher ongoing earning rates and redemption values with the Reserve can outweigh the initial bonus over time for some.